Independent Media Centre Ireland

as free as a bird.

category international | racism & migration related issues | opinion/analysis author Saturday October 22, 2005 15:31author by iosaf

Once upon a time, the global system allowed pharmaceutical companies to withhold patents on drugs, vaccines and treatments needed by the poorest of this earth to protect intellectual property rights, assets, and the R&D budgets of scientists in the newly prosperous technologically focussed economies of the north.
"its up to the Africans" - Will they save us?
"its up to the Africans" - Will they save us?

This was called progress. It was felt that allowing poorer countries and states to produce drugs, treatments and vaccines for their own people would undermine the system which offered young people incentive to work in labs instead of trying to be DJs.

There were an awful lot of DJs in those days.
& skateboards were plentiful too.

Many poorer countries in the south asked and pleaded for the right to make pills, ointments and tablets to give sick people and children with AIDS, Malaria, TB, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) measles, tuberculosis, polio, hepatitis and yellow fever.

But they were told there other ways to deal with the problem, they didn't need to and under no circumstances would be allowed to break patent law.

The good people of Ireland led by Bono, and those of England led by Geldof an those of the americas led by Bill Gates would raise enough cash and more importantly "awareness" on these issues.

The majority of drug patents were held by the USA along with the patents on genes, and of course the largest databases ever created.


& no-one thought this was ridiculous or a mistake in anyway, becuase if they had they would have said so at Gleneagles.
Because they were that sort.

Then along came the sick birds.

They overflew our continent causing a bit of "popular panic" and went largely un-noticed to Africa. Despite teh finest efforts of a new multi-million dollar industry did try and tag them all.

& they never came back.

They had done this global migratoty thing every year until the winter of 2005. But for some unknown reason they never came back.

Experts were called upon.

They concurred that the birds were especially designed to do "global migration", which is why they had little wings and a very dinky sense of direction and wind currents.

They also agreed that when they got to Africa, they would most probably hav done what they had always done. They'd breed. Breeding is animals way of mutating and evolving. It works for them, and they're very good at it. But it can get unhygienic.

The experts also agreed that many of the birds would get eaten. Because thats the sort of place Africa is, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The peoples of Europe waited for the long months of Spring. How many of the lsot little birds and of course the new "baby birds" would come back?

But not a single one came.

How was this going to effect the price of a cup of tea?

Well its like this. You find bird flu on your farm because the Telly tells you to pay attention to sick birds. And immediately afterwards the forces of NATO and the UN will cull every flapping bird for a radius of 3 kilometres, or if you're getting technical the sick bird will already have been quarantined and be in that freezer bag quicker than you can say pandemic.

But Africa doesn't work that way.

It might come as a surprise to many, but in Africa, people don't cull their birds so easily.
Until of course the winter of 2005 / 2006 when Africa united and bludgeoned every single bird in sight, and China closed its borders.

An estimated 27 million children in the developing world still aren't immunized each year for Malaria, TB, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) measles, tuberculosis, polio, or offered treatments for hepatitis, AIDS and yellow fever.

in 2002, this resulted in 2.1 million deaths. WHO estimates that $8-$12 billion will be needed from both donor and developing country governments from 2005-15 to immunize children in the poorest countries with vaccines available today; more will be needed to introduce new vaccines now in the development pipeline.

Roche owns the patent on many thousands of drugs. One of which is "Tamiflu" or "oseltamivir", it sold out in Germany and Croatia less than a week ago, and is not on the local market shelves in Africa.

In Taiwan the state say:-
"We have tried our best to negotiate with Roche. It means we have shown our goodwill to Roche and we appreciate their patent. But to protect our people is the utmost important thing," Su Ih-jen, head of the clinical division at the National Health Research Institute, told Reuters.

"The research institute showed media a generic version of Tamiflu produced by its laboratories, which it said was 99 percent similar to Roche's drug."

"The World Health Organisation's director of epidemic and pandemic alert, Mike Ryan, told the Financial Times on Saturday it would cost billions of dollars to prepare the world fully for a potential pandemic with large-scale production of vaccines and other measures."

"The Bottom Line"
We will need lots of money for the birds when if they ever come back. Thank God the Africans culled them for us.

Comments (5 of 5)

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author by Dr. J. Coleman Carrington - The Royal Root Guildpublication date Mon Oct 24, 2005 03:21author email theroyalrootguild at mac dot comauthor address author phone

Although I am concerned about the plight of millions of Africans who suffer the consequences of systematic exploitation every day, I am equally concerned about some of the proposed solutions to some of their problems. It is true that rich nations and their corporations manipulate the global playing field to their disproportionate advantage, effectively preventing third world nations from developing, and major international economic reform is the only way forward (the Gleneagles Summit was willing to throw a few billion more dollars at the problem, but trade barrier reform was conspicuously ignored). However, when it comes to disease, the solutions may not be so straightforward.

Mass artificial vaccination programs have been controversial for decades, and evidence for their efficacy is inconclusive. Furthermore, there is a substantial and growing body of evidence that vaccines are actually harmful, even when considered successful (the child does not get the measles, but he gets cancer instead). The need for rendering assistance to Africa is self-evident, but exactly which forms of assistance are the most worthwhile should be debated further. Simply throwing more money at the continent without dismantling protectionist economic policies will hardly improve the situation. And simply throwing drugs at the people who are suffering may not be the safest or most effective solution, either.

By the way, I fully supported Bono and Geldof during Live 8: my wife and I signed our names to the petition. But when we found out how much of the campaign revolved around mass vaccinations, we withdrew our support. I have nothing but respect for Bono and Geldof. They are two of my personal heroes. But on this issue, they are sadly misguided.

For a good starting point on the nature of this debate, as well as its unexpected relevance to Africa, go to

Related Link:
author by iosaf mac d.publication date Mon Oct 24, 2005 14:06author address author phone

the EU agricultural ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to discuss what practical steps can be taken, an imported parrot has died in the UK, Croatia is turning up cases, and Switzerland just found a dead duck.

meanwhile, all EU states are being asked to launch information websites. Ireland as usual is tardy. Migratory birds pass through Ireland from Iceland and some from Scandinavia, they then fly through Spain (the main european junction point) to Africa. Through Africa they got the largest global junction just south of the Equator. They return from there in Spring.

It is now certain, that the birds are sick. What is not certain, is will their "epidemic" mutate and threaten our _or another_ species, which then would give it to us. Can a cat get flu from a bird?

We might wonder why are the birds sick? Has climate change given them little chills? Was it something they ate? Did they get sick after something horrible came into their nests?

Both Palestine and the Phillipines have joined the list of states which are prohibiting the hunting of migratory birds. It is worth considering that most hunting arms in the west are supposedly held to shoot migratory birds, and that Islam (& judaism) prohibit the consumption of many of these birds as being "unclean", but for some reason, they in certain domesticated form comprise the main cheap supply of protein to the West.

please don't forget "If its got protein", and "its cheap", Africans eat it.
Reply to comment:

I'm not sure if the core issues are the same, Dr C.C. your organisation campaigns on safety issues and vaccinations primarily in the USA, where approaches have been different and general health practise has contributed in many ways to the erradication of some of the diseases I mentioned in the article. Your belief that vaccinations lead to cancer are not supported by conclusive evidence, and i suggest that many US citizens fall victim to pathogenes in their environment. At end I would argue, that saving millions of african and other children from infant deaths or lifelong disability caused by diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) measles, tuberculosis, and polio outweighs the risk that some hundreds might develop at an age _past their current lifespan projections_ certain types of cancer.

The Third world has not made any progress to disease erradication, and with lack of clean water or nutrition, or indeed hospitals, I am doubtful that they will be able to approach disease irradication in any of the other ways you might suggest. Btw I am completely against Bono and Geldof's interventions as "entertainment industry spokesmen and leaders" in the last round of G8 campaigning. They have suceeded in undervaluing the issues at a global level, and reducing the concerns of my generation to pop politics. That is not why I and others took to the street in the late 90s, we didn't do that to "entertain or salve consciences" we did it to change history. If we wanted to be entertaining we would have made pop music, sold records and been famous and sexy doing lots of drugs instead.

Thus, I continue to support vaccinations for the 3rd world until anyone can propose another practical solution to the daily death toll in high thousands of children who didn't receive those drugs. & I am also campaigning against the patent laws which immorally bind states in the reproduction of pharmaceuticals. & I understand such moral objections to patent and intellectual law to form an essential part of "our program" of objections to what is understood as "property assets" in many more senses.

author by Dr. J. Coleman Carrington - The Royal Root Guildpublication date Wed Oct 26, 2005 17:27author email theroyalrootguild at mac dot comauthor address author phone

I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I respond to your statement quoted here:

"The Third world has not made any progress to disease erradication, and with lack of clean water or nutrition, or indeed hospitals, I am doubtful that they will be able to approach disease irradication in any of the other ways you might suggest."

Interestingly, you seem to acknowledge the cause of the problem without making a connection to its solution. Infectious disease doesn't spread rapidly in Africa because of the lack of vaccines or hospitals. Infectious disease spreads rapidly through contaminated water and food supplies, as well as human contact without personal hygiene. Why not simply invest the required resources for building a sustainable infrastructure in Africa? They need the basics (clean food and water) far more urgently than they need controversial drugs whose impact on the human gene pool has scarcely been investigated.

Perhaps you did not get the chance to read the entire article in the link included with my previous comments. I encourage you to explore all sides of this controversial issue, so as to remain fully informed as you continue your campaign.

Certainly, as noted and fully referenced in Mrs. Fisher's speech to US Congress, there IS evidence that many vaccinated children (not just adults) all over the world (not just in the US) have died from brain tumors, and that there may be a causal link to prior vaccinations. Independent, non-government research in which autopsies revealed the presence of monkey kidney cells in the brain tissue of vaccinated children who died of brain cancer may not confirm direct causality, but it certainly warrants further inquiry and due caution.

Regarding "conclusive" evidence, while none may exist to establish a causal link between vaccines and cancer, it is important to remember that none exists to establish a causal link between vaccines and the eradication of any known disease, either. Historically, epidemics seem to follow a natural lifespan of their own: the rates of polio, as well as measles, mumps, diphtheria, and many other diseases, declined in similar fashion elsewhere without vaccines even as the decline was observed simultaneously in the US following the mass inoculation program of the 1950's. Not everyone in Europe died of the bubonic plague, even though everyone was probably exposed to it (and even though there was no vaccine). Yet the diease was self-limiting, even despite the continued absence of adequate sanitation.

Copious research has been conducted on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, and the overwhelming verdict (within peer-reviewed journals and studies without pharmaceutical industry sponsorship) is that they are almost totally ineffective. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (the highest-ranking facility of its kind in the US and a worldwide authority) shows that in 2003-2004, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine was only as little as 3%. In fact, it was determined that a person was twice as likely to get the flu with the vaccine as without. See

One thing is for certain: diseases and epidemics come and go, but there is no "conclusive" evidence that when they go, it is because of vaccines. Not even for smallpox.

Wholesome food, pure water and effective sanitation measures are the very basic requirements of any group of people with regard to their collective health. I submit that these essential elements of society are not merely an afterthought whose presence or absence is taken for granted, but rather the cornerstone of any project which seeks to develop a self-perpetuating society. It is not enough to acknowledge the absence of food, water and sanititation, and then acknowledge the breeding ground for disease this situation engenders, and then simply assume that drugs are the solution.

All drugs are harmful and should therefore only be used as an emergency measure to protect life or limb if no other viable option is available. One must wonder how many fresh water supplies could be produced in Africa with the billions it would take to vaccinate the continent.

One more word on the safety of vaccines. I don't think this is the case in Europe any longer, but vaccines produced in the US still contain mercury, a powerful carcinogen. The industry uses mercury to preserve larger amounts of a vaccine than would be possible otherwise, making production more profitable. Recently, President Bush refused to sign a bill prohibiting the use of mercury in vaccine production. This begs the question, how many vaccines with mercury will reach Africa? Do the Africans deserve mercury-laden vaccines any more than the rest of us?

Nobody wants anybody to die from an infectious disease.

But is replacing one pathogen for another really the best solution?

author by bankerpublication date Sun Oct 30, 2005 23:13author address author phone

Mass vacination in Africa in the 1970's has been reported to have spread Aids, as in poverty stricken African countries, it was common practise for cash and equipment deprived nurses to use the same hypodermic needle to vaccinate thousands of people.

This was also common practise in far east tropical countries.

author by -publication date Mon Oct 31, 2005 12:08author address author phone

thats $258m
or 145m
"Malaria accounts for less than 0.3% of total health research spending worldwide even though it accounts for 3% of all the productive years of life lost to disease"

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